Iraq Report: Maintaining pressure in Baghdad and the Belts
As Operation Phantom Thunder and the Baghdad Security Plan are underway, al Qaeda in Iraq has failed to launch a major attack inside Baghdad over the past week. Operation Phantom Thunder, the overarching security operation in Baghdad's Belts of eastern Anbar, northern Babil, and Diyala, continues to pressure al Qaeda's support and leadership network, and Coalition forces are maintain the pressure on the Iranian-backed Special Groups.
Diyala province has seen a flurry of activity the past two days. On July 19, a joint U.S. and Iraqi force killed 15 insurgents in Abi Sayyad in northeastern Diyala, near Miqdadiyah. Today, the Iraqi Army killed five insurgents and captured 46, and found six roadside bombs during operations in eastern Diyala. The operations occurred as al Qaeda in Iraq is said to have "staged a military parade" of about 250 fighters in the city of Miqdadiyah. "They reportedly marched in the streets thrusting their weapons in the air and carrying flags with 'Iraqi Islamic State' inscribed on them," Voices of Iraq reported.
Baghdad, Babil, the North and al-Qaeda's network
Inside Baghdad, Iraqi and Coalition special operations forces conducted several intelligence-driven raids, and netted dozens of al Qaeda and insurgent suspects over the past several days. A raid neighborhood near the Um al-Qura mosque in the Kadhimiyah resulted in the capture of an al Qaeda in Iraq media cell leader, and 17 al Qaeda fighters. Another raid in western Baghdad resulted in one al Qaeda operative killed and nine suspects captured.
In northern Babil province near Jist Diyala, U.S. forces caprtured an insurgent from Multinational Division Center™s most wanted list, along with four suspected insurgents. While not mentioned, he appears to be linked to the Iranian-backed Special Groups. "The detained 'high-value individual' is believed to be responsible for the recent increase in explosively formed projectile improvised explosive devices and indirect fire attacks against Coalition Forces east of Baghdad," Multinational Forces Iraq stated. He also was involved in an organized crime network in the region.
Iraqi and U.S. troops also captured a rocket cell leader and an associate during an air assault in northern Babil. Weapons, including a sniper rifle and an Uzi, and a large amount of cash were also found.
Mosul and the northern areas remain contested as al Qaeda is attempting to reestablish its base in the region while Coalition forces pressure the organization in Baghdad and the Belts. Iraqi and Coalition forces have been pressing al Qaeda's network in Mosul. The latest raid netted two senior operatives: a battalion commander and a cell leader. "The primary suspect is believed to be a former regime Army officer who controls six other emirs throughout Mosul," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. "He reportedly is the liaison between the west side of the al-Qaeda affiliated group™s commander and other battalion commanders."
The "al-Qaeda affiliated group" mentioned is likely Ansar al Sunnah, which has joined al Qaeda's front group the Islamic State of Iraq and is strong in the north. Iraqi troops also found a large cache of explosives and IED material on the outskirts of Mosul.
Nationwide raids by the special operators of Task Force 88, the hunter-killer teams assigned to dismantling al Qaeda's command network, resulted in three al Qaeda operatives killed and 58 captured over two days. Friday's raids in Baghdad, Ramadi, and Mosul resulted in three al Qaeda operatives killed and 44 captured. The bulk of Friday's raids were conducted in Baghdad. Saturday's raids in Taji, Fallujah, and Balad resulted in 14 al Qaeda in Iraq suspects captured.
Iranian-backed Special Groups
Coalition and Iraqi forces continue to degrade the Iranian-backed Special Groups network. "Coalition Forces captured a suspected terrorist with close ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) in a raid Thursday in Kharnabat near Baqubah," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. The operative is believed to have close links with senior leaders in Iran's Qods Force, and has transported personnel and weapons, including Explosively Formed Projectiles, from Iran into Iraq.